Let’s get small

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By Hannah Wallace

Rachel Paverman hadn’t left New Jersey in two years. She’d undergone three brain surgeries in 2019, and then the pandemic hit. This summer, when she and her boyfriend finally felt comfortable traveling again, the 27-year-old began researching potential low-key vacations. Her mother directed her to the Tiny House Siesta Instagram page. They booked two nights at the end of July.

“This was our first experience (with tiny houses), and it was awesome,” Paverman said.

Tiny House Siesta is the product of rental property manager Jeremy Ricci and a certain amount of luck. Ricci had been managing properties in and around Philadelphia, but he felt handcuffed by bureaucracy. He began exploring the Florida market, and felt drawn to Sarasota’s “eclectic demographic,” he said.

Lucas and Sylvia Falcau give a thumbs-up review of their time at a Tiny House Siesta at the end of their Labor Day weekend visit. (photo by John Morton)

In 2011 the government regulations went his way when he discovered a 3/4-acre lot on Avenue A near Siesta Key’s south bridge that had been grandfathered into the zoning as a mobile home park.

“If we’d wanted to start a new RV park, we’d have needed like 50 acres,” he said.

Around the same time, Ricci attended a young innovators expo with his son. There he met builder and author Deek Diedricksen, who’s been featured on a number of HGTV an DIY Network TV shows espousing the merits of tiny-house living. Diedricksen explained to Ricci, in part, that tiny houses on wheels are considered RVs — making them suitable for Ricci’s new lot.

Ricci began collecting tiny houses, commissioning some to be built for him and purchasing others secondhand. The Tiny House Siesta property now contains about a dozen tiny houses available for vacation rentals. And because they’re on wheels, Ricci can swap them out for new structures if he wants to freshen things up.

How tiny are they? All of Ricci’s tiny houses are 8.5 feet wide, the maximum width they can be to travel on the roadway without a wide load permit. In length they range from 16 feet to 33 feet. On average they’re about 170 square feet — not counting the sleeping loft.

“We measure in square inches,” Ricci joked.

The experience attracts three different kinds of customers, said Ricci: People who watch TV shows like Tiny House Nation, people who are seriously considering living in a tiny house and want to try it out first, and people who are simply looking for something a little different.

“People post pictures of themselves staying at the tiny houses,” Ricci said. “It’s rare to see people taking selfies in a boring, square old hotel room.”

And in the time of COVID-19, private, stand-alone rental structures are a plus.

The tiny design turned out to be an added bonus for Paverman, too.

“I needed a handicap-accessible room. Lots of tiny houses have lofts, but we found one where the bed was on the floor,” she said. “I have a hard time getting around and I usually need a cane to keep my balance. But this space was so small I could just hold onto things and get all around, from the front to the back.”

Ricci manages a similar property in Colorado and hopes to duplicate this kind of rental model in other tourist destinations. He’s partnered with a couple of vocational schools across the country to build new tiny houses, some of which may eventually make it to the Avenue A locale. He’s also hoping to host tiny house festivals here, in part to promote local businesses during Siesta’s traditional slow seasons.

“All in all, I think people are looking for unique experiences,” Ricci said, “and it’s a pleasure to be able to provide that.”

For information and booking, visit tinyhousesiesta.com.

Hannah Wallace
Author: Hannah Wallace

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